Saturday, December 12, 2015

White Ribbons & Silver Tinsel: Adam and Emmaline


"There you are, dear."

Emmaline blew a strand of hair out of her face and watched from her place on the floor as Sylvia gingerly pick her way through the piles of belongings waiting to be boxed, thrown out or donated. She cringed. A week in Griffin Hills and it didn't look like she accomplished anything. Except making a mess. She bit her lip to keep from laughing hysterically.

Her mom's house had been as neat and orderly as she remembered. Except all that neatness and order hid the truth: Mom had been a pack rat. Of the worse kind.

Everything had a place. Similar items were kept together. There was just a lot of them. Kitchenware, dinnerware, silverware. Towels, sheets, blankets, comforters. Jackets, shirts, blouses, tank tops. Jeans, sweatpants, khakis. Dresses and skirts of every length imaginable. Makeup. Emmaline couldn't remember ever seeing her mom with makeup on yet there was enough in both bathrooms to stock a cosmetics store.

Sylvia chuckled and sat in the recliner behind her. "Your mother used to have more than this."

Emmaline groaned and shook her head. "Please don't tell me that."

"Oh, this isn't so bad, dear. Elaine cleaned house after you left. Got rid of half her house, I think, when she did." Her voice softened and Emmaline turned to face her. Tears shone in the woman's eyes, as if Elaine had died yesterday instead of a few months ago.

Emmaline swallowed past the lump lodged in her throat. She looked away and pressed her fingertips to her lips to quiet her sobs. A gentle hand brushed over her hair as Sylvia lowered herself to the floor.

"Oh, my sweet Emma," she whispered and drew her into her arms.

Emmaline didn't hesitate. She turned into her embrace and cried for all she'd missed and lost. Sylvia's hands swept up and down her back as she murmured words that soothed her shattered heart and soul. She wept until she couldn't then sat up and wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand.

She smiled shakily. "Thank you."

Sylvia's smile was just as shaky. "Oh, honey, you're welcome. It was coming." She turned and looked around the room. "Now, about all this."

Emmaline cringed. "There's so much stuff! It's going to take forever to sort through all of it."

Sylvia chuckled. "It looks like you've gotten a great start though. Although you might want to consider a garage sale to--"

Knock knock knock

They turned in the direction of the front door. "Expecting someone?" Sylvia asked.

Emmaline snorted. "Besides you? Who else would come see me?"

Knock knock knock

She sighed and climbed to her feet. "But I guess I better answer it. I just hope it's not Adam. I don't think I could deal with him right now."

"You'll have to sooner or later." Sylvia scooped a pile of towels into her lap. "You can't hide from him forever."

"Watch me," Emmaline muttered and strode towards the door.

But anxiety started to settle over her as the idea of Adam coming by took hold. She slowed when suspiciously short dark hair appeared in the half-circle window at the top of the panel.  Oh God oh God oh God. She pressed a hand to her stomach to try to calm it.

Knock knock knock

She stopped in front of it, noticed how hard her hand shook as she grasped the doorknob. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Please don't be him.

She released the breath she'd been holding, opened her eyes, and pulled the door open. A young man stood on the other side, hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans, worry lines furrowing his forehead. His short hair, an interesting blend of dark brown and red, stood up in various directions as if he'd raked his fingers through it before knocking. He shifted his weight from one booted foot to the other, causing the boards under him to creak and groan.

Emmaline cleared her throat and started to ask who he was when he pulled his hands from his pockets and scrubbed them over his face. She watched, frozen, transfixed be a faded scar on the back of his left hand. A smaller hand bore a similar scar years ago. But it couldn't be.

Could it?

"I've dreamed of the day I'd see you again."

The man's voice was low, rough, and Emmaline looked up to see him watching her with such intensity it took her breath away. His mouth trembled and he sniffed. She gasped and slapped a hand over her mouth. Brandon used to do that, every time he apologized for misbehaving, when he was sad or hurt. Hope exploded in her chest as he continued.

"You're more beautiful than I remember, and you were always the most beautiful woman when I was a kid." He took a deep shuddering breath as tears filled his eyes. "God, I've missed you, Mom."

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